Spider fossils! See them in 3D CT!

September 1, 2009

Unlike Tarantula and other horror films of the 1950s, fossil spiders in 3D CT may not be more terrifying than any creature known to man.

Unlike Tarantula and other horror films of the 1950s, fossil spiders in 3D CT may not be more terrifying than any creature known to man. But the three-dimensional presentations are helping paleontologists discover how the creatures looked and behaved.

Growing to about the diameter of a half dollar, Cryptomartus hindi and Eophrynus prestivicii roamed the Earth during the Carboniferous period, about 325 million years ago, as life was first emerging from the oceans to live on land. Both terrestrial creatures walked on four pairs of legs and looked much like modern spiders.

Scientists at Imperial College in London used microtomography to acquire 3000 CT slices of the fossils and produce volumetric versions of the little critters.

The 3D models indicate that two legs of C. hindi (left) were angled toward the front of its body, suggesting they were used to grab prey. Scientists have theorized that it was an ambush predator, living in logs and on fern fronds, where it waited for insects to walk by.

Spikes on the back of E. prestivicii (right) may have been a defensive adaptation making them less appetizing to amphibians, which had also recently made their first appearances on land. To learn more, go to www.palenews.net/.